As construction plans for the new park were being finalized, the Splash Pad Neighborhood Forum learned that the amount of proposed landscaping would be minimal due to a shortage of park maintenance staff. As a compromise, Walter Hood and the City agreed to add a lineal, 1400 square foot California Native Garden that the community would plant and support. Tora Rocha ( then a City Gardener and until late 2017, a Park Supervisor), Michael Sasso (then owner of Potrero Gardens) and Tom Nelson (Manager of Ace Grand Lake Ace Nursery), put together a plant list and Mary Ellen Navas solicited donations. On October 4, 2003, over twenty enthusiastic volunteers landscaped the entire bed in one morning. One hundred per cent of the plants were donated. Donors included Michael Sasso, the Grand Lake Nursery, the California Horticultural Society, Emerisa Gardens and Sebastapol Growers in Santa Rosa, the Suncrest Nursery in Watsonville and the Native Sons Nursery in Arroyo Grande.
The majority of what was planted in 2003 is thriving — but over time, additional California natives have been added to fill holes in the landscaping. In 2014, Splash Pad’s “Grand Crew” team of volunteers, under the leadership of Mary Jo Sutton, began expanding into three adjacent Dogwood beds – the last and largest of which was landscaped in 2017. Much of the funding for these expansion projects was provided through grants from Keep Oakland Beautiful. In 2018, the Grand Crew’s goal is to install plant tags, brochures and interpretative signage with funding again provided by KOB.